Archive for the ‘WW1’ Category

Exeter, England – June 25th, 1917 – (Letter #25)

Dear Brother;

Just a few lines to let you know I am in England in hospital in Exeter. Is in the South of England. I was blown up with a high explosive, but thank God, I did get not get any of the shell. It shook me up pretty bad. I did not know how bad it was hurt for a while, but I got a bad knee out of it. I was sent down to the base in France and sent to First American Hospital, so you know I was alright then. To make it better, the major’s name was Darrach. He is from N.Y. and he is a fine man. He and I are great pals. He took me in to his ward and he would not allow any other doctor but himself to look after me and he took the best of care of me. He is the head doctor of the hospital and, if I ever go back, I’ve got to go to N.Y. and see him.

Well, Jack, they have lots of rich man’s sons as orderlies. There is one of the Drapers from Hopedale and Judge? (forgot his name) from N.Y, his son. They are doing their bit, in fact, they are all college men and the sisters are fine. They are out of the Presbyterian Hospital in N.Y. There is a Sister MacDonald from Summerside and a couple more from Canada. It is very quiet where I am now, very strict. I am hoping to get up soon on sticks.

My address is #3949 Private Lee G. Darrach, 1/7 Lancaster F. No. 1 Auxiliary Hospital, Exeter, Devon, England. That will get me for a while. Give my best wishes to all – Ted and Mary, Flo, kids and Sam and the whole bunch.

From, Lee

Editor’s Note:

  • Based on the dates of the letters leading up to and including this one, Lee was likely fighting in the Battle of Arras when he was wounded. The Battle of Vimy Ridge ran from April 9th to 12th and was part of the Battle of Arras which extended from April 9th to May 16th. His letters indicate he was fighting in France from March 10th on up until the time he was wounded.
  • First American Hospital was in Paris, France.
  • The Sister MacDonald that he is referring to is Beatrice MacDonald from North Bedeque. She left PEI for New York to advance her education. When the war began, she joined the effort. Beatrice is the most decorated nurse of WW1, the most prestigious award being a Purple Heart. The Guardian ran a story about her, click here. To learn more about PEI Nurses in WW1, we recommend reading Katherine Dewar’s book, Those Splendid Girls: The Heroic Service of Prince Edward Island Nurses in the Great War.

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France – April 28th, 1917 (Letter #24)

Dear Brother;

Just a few lines to let you know I am well. Hoping this will find you all the same. I have not had a letter from you since I came to France, but I have written every week. Hope you are getting them alright. I know Mother doesn’t get half my letters I write, as I can tell by the letters I get from home. My address in now 1/7 Lancaster Fusiliers, C.Coy, B.E. Force ℅ G.P.O. London attached to #427 Field Coy (E.L.) Royal Engineers.

Well, I bet you are pleased that old Wilson did take a tumble and came into the war. Give me all the news when you write. I bet there is some excitement around Boston. I see by the papers they are sending troops over here. Well, I think it will shorten the war.

Things are very lively on this front but it is all one sided and that is our side. I hope they will drive them all straight to hell, but I don’t think the devil will have them. Do you ever hear from Vernon MacLeod? I wish I had his address. He might be right handy for all I know. When I get his address, I will write to him. I have seen quite a few Canadians, but no one I know yet.

Well, how is work this Spring in Boston? Are you kept busy all the time and is Sam working all the time?  I wonder how poor Eldon is getting along. I hear he had to go to Halifax. I don’t see why they keep him with such a bad heart. Well, we are having very good weather at present and I hope it will keep so. We did have awful rotten weather ever since we came to France until last week. Well, there is always something to do on this front.

Well, I am with the Engineers at present and there is plenty of hard work for all of us all, but I would like to drop in and have a good feed with you. I think I could stand it all right. Remember me to Herb Hatch and all the boys. I bet Teddy is a big boy now. Lots of love and xxx for Mary and Ted. Remember me to Flo, Sam and kids.

With love and best wishes from your brother, Lee.

Editor’s Note: The US remained out of the war as long as they could. Politically, they took a position of neutrality; however, they were helping to finance both Britain and France in their war efforts. Americans with British ancestry had been keen from the beginning to have US join the war, but others who were predominantly Democrats were dead against it. There were two developments that changed that balance further to the earlier sinking of the passenger liner RMS Lusitania in 1914. In 1917, Germany decided, in an effort to finally win the long war, to starve out Britain by blocking merchant ships reaching its shores by declaring “unrestricted submarine warfare”. The US also intercepted a telegram where Germany offered to assist Mexico in regaining the territories, now part of the US, they has lost in the Mexican-American war. The US declared war against Germany in April 1917 and later in December against Austria and Hungary. Germany calculated the US would take some time to be ready to fight a war, and, by that time, it would be over.

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France – April 22nd, 1917 – (Letter #23)

Dear Brother;

Just a line. As you know, I have been carrying this letter for a long time, but I am sending it to England tomorrow morning. We are having an awful hard time. I would give up my life for a feed. Money’s no good here. Jack, I wish you were handy, so I could get some bread from you. We have been stuck into it damn hard of late, but we have been pretty lucky. We lost about 54, so that is not bad, but your old humble is still on top yet, but I don’t think it will be for long. Your chances where I am is about as good as a snowball has of lasting five minutes in hell. Give my love to all. I don’t get much chance for writing.

Good bye, with love and best wishes,

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France – March 18, 1917 – (Letter #22) 

Dear Brother Jack & B;

Just a few lines to let you know I am in the pink. Hoping this will find you all the same. I am still on top, but this is a hot show and we are giving them their money’s worth and some change. I tell you, Jack, stick up for the Turks. They will fight square. They are sports. I will give the devil his dues, but the damn German will not. I don’t think they know how to fight square. It is quite a change for us fellows here. We had open fighting in Egypt, but it is trench warfare here. We can shift them.

It is iron foundries flying here. It is marvelous how on earth a human being can live through it. We can put it all over them in bombardment. I don’t see how in hell they stick to it, but, Jack, the mud is my worst enemy here – up to your armpits. When you get stuck, you are in for it. We had one of the boys stuck in it for 27 hours last week – could not get him out with rope. All we could do is give him plenty of rum and a sand bag to rest his head on. Of course, conditions here won’t allow you to do what you would do if you were stuck in the mud in Boston. It cost one life to save this boy. We had to do it in the open and a sniper got one of us. I am on the Somme front and there are worse places than where we are. I am going to send this letter to England with one of the boys, as a letter like this would cost me 10 years in prison or up against a brick wall. They watch you.

Send me a watch. Ask Florrie to chip in with you. It is hell on sentry going without a watch and especially when I am out on night patrol around the German trenches. It is to know the time to get back before daylight. There is not three watches in the company. We can’t buy nothing, not even bread. I think damn little of some of the French. You can’t get nothing out of them, and when you steal, they report you to the officers. I am up for stealing straw, about 200 of us. It is hard sleeping in mud about six inches deep, so we pinched the straw. I don’t know yet how we will come out of it. It is better in the front line trenches than back in the rear and you are safer, too. I am not with the machine gunners now. I am with the Battalion.

My address is 17 Lancashire Fusiliers, C. Coy. B.E.F. ℅ G.P.O. London, the same as my first address only B.E.F. I hope you get this letter alright and I hope you won’t be mad for asking for another watch. You can see I don’t expect to get knocked out. Give my best regards to Sam and Florie and kids. Teddy and Mary, not forgetting yourself and B. Write me a nice long letter like the last one. Will close with best wishes and love to all.

From your brother,

P.S. Remember me to all the boys. 

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France – March 10th, 1917 – (Letter #21) 

Dear Brother;

Jack and B, your most welcome letter received in Egypt some few weeks ago and was pleased to hear you are all in the pink as this leaves me at present. I would have written sooner only it was not possible as we were on the move. We are all in France now, Jack, with the big push where the iron founders are always flying over your head, and sometimes too low to suit the Tommies. There is more lead and iron flying around here in five minutes than there is in Boston. It is quite cold here. We feel it awful after coming out of a hot country.

When we landed here, there was snow on the ground, but I would rather be here than in Egypt. You can get your breath here. I had enough of Egypt and sand. You asked me if there were any Canadians with me. There are two from Nova Scotia. One used to work on an ice team in Forest Hills. We are billeted in barns or any place we can get shelter. Of course, it is not hotel conditions, but we can stand it. The mud is awful here, right up to your ass. The next billet to me are two kiddies. Their mother and father were killed when the huns went through here, but they will never go through again.

I am with the Battalion now, so my address will be 1/7 Lancashire Fusiliers. C Coy. B.E.F., care of G.P.O. London.

Well, I will have to come to a close for this time. Write soon. I may be on toe or maybe not, as this is a bad show. Remember me to Sam and Flo and kiddies. I will write to them when I get a chance.

Goodbye, with lots of love and best wishes from your brother Lee.


Heard from home and Eldon is home, glad to hear it. He got clear of this hell. Never mind, I will have my Christmas dinner with you next Christmas.

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Egypt – October 4th, 1916 – (Letter #20)

Dear Brother;

Jack and B, just a few lines to let you know I am in the pink. Hoping you are all the same. I have been just wondering if you got my last letter, the one with the first letter I wrote to you. Well, we are having it a little cooler here at present and the nights are very cool. I am still on the desert but everything is quiet here at present. Did Flo get my photos I sent her? They aren’t very good but the best I can get here. I was very much surprised to hear Eldon was in England. I do wish I could see him but I am a long way from him. I suppose he will be in France next. I wrote to him but got no answer, yet it is about time now.

I had a letter from home a couple of weeks ago and they are all well. What do you think about the war? When do you think it will end? What has the big fellow to say about it now, I mean Albert MacKinnon. I would like to have him out here for a while. He would find out that he was living. I heard that Annie was home, would have loved to see her. I suppose Flo is back. Did B have a good time at the Beach? I bet Ted did and Mary.

Well, Jack, I have no news, so will have to come to a close. Glad to hear you are having steady work. Is Bates still mayor of Quincy? I hear Dave Ross is running a shop of his own, is that right? Give my love and best regards to all and lots of xxxx for Mary and Ted.

Sorry to hear about Baby Hatch being drowned – remember me to Herb – tell him I’ll get a few extra Turks for him.

From, Lee

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Egypt – August 28th, 1916 – (Letter #19) 

Dear Brother;

Just a few lines to let you know I am in the pink. Hoping this will find you all the same. Well things are very quiet here at the present. I am sending this letter back to you again as it has done some travelling, so I will send it again. This is a cut out of the English papers about our time in Egypt. See what you think of it. I never got a letter from home, only one they registered to me. I am not with the Battalion. My address now is #3949 Private Lee G. Darrach, 125 Brigade, Machine Gun Co., #3 section, 42 Division, E.E. Force, ℅ G.P.O. London.

I suppose B is back by this time. Glad to hear you have steady work, hope it will keep up. Is Sam working all the time? I know we got a steady job here. Well, I have not news that would interest you, so will close for this time. With love and xxx for the kiddies and all.

From your brother, Lee

Editor’s Note:

Lee’s time in Egypt which he was not able to speak about in the past few letters was the Egyptian Expeditionary Forces’ involvement in the Battle of Romani. In this letter, he sent his brother a newspaper clipping that appeared on the front page of the British paper, The Daily News & Reader. The story offers a full account from a journalist who was present near the Battle. The Battle of Romani was fought alongside the ANZAC Mounted Division (Australia-New Zealand Army Corps) against the Ottoman and German forces to protect the Suez Canal. Sir Archibald Murray was the British commander and chief. The British/ANZAC forces intercepted the enemy 23 miles from the Canal and were successful in pushing them back a further 18 miles. The Suez Canal was not closed to traffic at any time during this battle. Also, after the great losses ANZAC suffered in Gallipoli/Dardanelles Campaign (Feb 17, 1915 -Jan 9, 1916), this was an important victory.

Read full newspaper clipping included with Lee’s letter here – Battle of Romani – Newspaper Article

To learn more about Australia and New Zealand’s participation in this battle, click on ANZAC historical link here.

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